Thursday, 17 May 2007

Watching the Defectives

I don’t know what to say anymore. It’s getting to the point where I’m loathing going to games. I’m almost – shock horror – looking forward to summer when I can confidently ignore sports (watch cricket? Surely you jest?) and do something important with my life. Obviously you know by now that we managed to throw another one away today. After four quarters of running their hearts out the boys went so close but fell apart in the last couple of minutes and left us at a frankly ludicrous 0-7.

Wild scenes even before the match when the news that Jared Rivers was out and would be replaced by Ben Holland caused me to launch a newspaper I was casually reading three rows in front of me out of shock. “There goes the game” said the guy sitting in front of me. Personally I thought it was already gone but there was no need to be cruel about it.

First things first I will say that the Bulldogs were completely mince today. Their spectacular ability to cock-up absolutely certainly goals was all that kept us in it for a long time. They were as full of run as predicted but targets were being missed all over the place and they didn’t seem to have any idea when they did get it. Sometimes they even turned around and belted it straight out of bounds – except if you were Nathan Eagleton and a conference of a field, boundary and goal umpire couldn’t decide whether a ball that landed a full half a metre outside the field of play was out on the full or not. Fair play to him the field umpire actually called it properly, but the clown running the boundary disagreed despite being 50m away, and when the goal umpire was called in everybody knew he’d roll over faster than a Russian car and admit he had no idea. Cue a throw in. Cue us almost copping a goal. Cue another brick chipped away in my interest in this sport.

Other than the Keystone Cops on the boundary the first quarter was excellent. The Dogs butchered their fair share of chances but Johnstone and Davey were running riot and we were more than a match for them. Everyone knew we wouldn’t go on with it and the comeback was always on but it was good to go into quarter time with a lead of more than a couple of points. Of course the Dogs duly saluted and kicked 6 goals to 1 in the second to put us back in our place. Roll on half-time, the loneliest time of them all, and a good half an hour to reflect on how far we have fallen.

Remember a few years ago when the Dogs wrested the Allen Jakovich Cup from us when they were a mile clear at the bottom of the ladder and hadn’t won for weeks? Now suddenly here we were clutching desperately to hope of a shock comeback while their fans sat there chewing nails and praying that they wouldn’t be the first side to lose to us. Of course in a traditionally Melbourne-esque manoeuvre we lost that game and didn’t win this one. The pleasure is all theirs I’m sure.

Dome Watch
Well for one thing it’s not a fucking dome, but I think we’ve covered this before so let’s move on. The treeswingers running the place have finally caved in under public pressure and removed the “no pass out” policy designed to force punters into paying for overpriced and shit food inside rather than dine at the variety of perfectly good fast-food joints just outside. Of course they never admitted that was the reason and talked up some shit about how it was to stop people getting bonced by rogue footballs kicked by 12-year-olds on the concourse outside at half-time. Nobody except the criminally na├»ve/intellectually disabled believed them then, and nobody believes them now.

Waverley Park might have been a crumbling wreck in the middle of nowhere with a car park that was harder to get out of than the Black Hole of Calcutta but at least it was honest. The Dome, for all of its scoreboard announcements about minding your behaviour for the kiddies, and Medallion Club’s where for $375 you can be a fat corporate crunt who takes other fat corporate crunts to golf courses and games they don’t actually care about, can burn to the ground tomorrow for all I care. The novelty of having lived next door and being able to get home before the theme song played a second time was enough to make me tolerate the place last season but now I practically have to be dragged there kicking and screaming.

Apparently post-game scenes were wild with the management closing one of the bars early and causing a riot with Dogs fans and security. Here’s hoping somebody sues the place for so much that Ian Collins is left washing car windows on Punt Road to pay it all off.

End Dome Watch

Suddenly after we’d sat there during half time contemplating how quickly we’d die if we jumped from the top of the non-domed roof Melbourne came out and ran riot for a few minutes, putting us right back in the mix. Footscray steadied as the quarter went on but there were signs goddamit. Consider the fact that with Rivers, Robertson, Whelan and Brock in the side we would have been at full-strength and you start to wonder what this season could have been like. It’s not a bad four players to have out but I think as we get better and finally win a couple of games it’ll become a national sport to ask just how far we could have gone in ’07.

With the right recruitment and luck we should be back in force next year – I certainly fancy our position more than I do Richmond’s – but is it going to be too late to do anything with Neitz, White and Yze? Despite his fiascos earlier in the year Yze showed he’s got some life left in him yet, and White played probably his best game all year but Neitz was ineffectual. He shows

Err, back to the game. 15 points down at ¾ time and kicking with the pissiest wind in history shouldn’t have given much confidence but surprisingly the mood was upbeat amongst the seven of us still left. You could see ND imploring them to one last huge effort and in some sort of sick fairy tale way I actually believed it. God help us all (and he can stick it if he’s not delivering us a flag) it almost came off. Straight out of the blocks in the last we were all over the Dogs who looked tired.

Somebody – god knows who – had a shot and jagged another one to put us right in the mix, but Neitz decided to have one of his once a year spaz outs at the wrong time, deck somebody and give away a free-kick out of the centre. The Dogs took it straight out of the centre and goalled. He was, rightfully, dragged and suddenly our forward line consisted of The Man With No Brain and The Other Man With No Brain as Holland and Miller were called upon to rescue us with their own unique brand of headless chicken football. Somehow despite the fact that between them they’ve played about 5 good games we managed to stay afloat and even kick a goal. When Neitz was finally called back into the mix he duly saluted by kicking a goal to put us back in front.

This was then cancelled out by Nathan Eagleton being able to stroll to 50 with absolutely no pressure whatsoever and smack one home. Again we were behind by 5 and it started to look a bit ‘next goal’ wins. So when we actually kicked the next goal – through a strong Colin Sylvia mark and a wonky kick from 10m out straight in front – it looked as if the miracle at the Corporate Dome might take place after all. Of course it didn’t – Nathan Jones got tagged for a criminal “in the back” out of the centre, the ball ended up with Brad Johnson and he put the icing on the cake.

They then added a point to make sure we couldn’t actually win, and when Yze and Neitz combined for a comical rubbish kick inside 50/outmarking we were done for. By the end Jeff White had ran himself into the ground so comprehensively that he could barely leap for the ball in the centre. They may have looked tired at the start of the last but their petrol reserves clearly ran deeper than ours.

6pts of loss. Another 6 weeks of life off all our life expectancies due to the stress. What to do? Cry? Cut up? Look up Paul Hopgood in the White Pages, ring up and abuse him? Go emo and sit on the steps of Flinders Street? I don’t know anymore. I really don’t. It’s all so unjust – to be sitting just a few percentage points above the apocalypse that is Richmond is an insult when we’re clearly a better side. I guess we’ll find out if that’s really true when we play them in the 0-11 vs 0-11 derby in a few weeks time. Does anyone seriously believe that we’re on a par with the Collingwood side who had the same sick neck-and-neck backwards race with the Dockers a few years ago? Richmond may very well be as bad as the Freo side that won two games in the last few rounds to avoid total apocalypse but are we really on par with a Tony Shaw coached side which featured Cameron Venables? I say no.

Byron Watch
Dropped. Apparently because there wasn't a spot for him. If that’s not a red hot slap in the face given the situation we’re in I don’t know what is.

Coach Watch
Take the first lifeboat Neale – you deserve better and we desperately need change. I know he’s dedicated to the side he’s built but surely we have to admit at some point that we need a new broom to sweep some of the slops away. Having said this my money’s that he survives for at least another year – we will then make the finals, do nothing and put the “almost but not quite” cycle back into full gear. Said it before – will say it every week I want to see somebody up there who, like Dean Laidley, you’d believe was a serial killer if somebody told you. I want MENACE and plenty of it. Fuck I’ll have Ivan Milat in the box if that’s what it takes to win a fecking flag.

VOTES

5 – Aaron Davey
4 – Travis Johnstone
3 – Colin Sylvia
2 - Jeff White
1 – Matthew Bate

Miller was absolutely toilet on the day. My point earlier in the season about he only looks good when we’re playing awfully has never been better proven than in the last two weeks. We’ve put on our best performances for the season and he’s been nowhere to be seen. When Dunn and Bate have stood up and grabbed games by the neck he’s trying to win marking contests from the unorthodox position of on the ground and behind.

I've praised him a couple of times this year, and he has played a couple of decent games, but he is no star CHF. If they weren’t going to sit down and school him in how to play the position in the off-season there was absolutely no reason to keep him. Seven weeks – and a pre-season - into the year and he still takes marks on the 50 and immediately looks for somebody to handball it to. More often than not these handballs go absolutely nowhere and leave us in a worse position. The one time he did have a shot from 50 – because everyone ran away from him – he didn’t even make the distance.

As I’ve said before as much as I like Daniher I want to see a new coach, and part of this comes down to ND’s obscene sense of loyalty to a player who will never amount to superstar status no matter how long you give him. Compare this to players like Lamb or Philthy who might not have been terrific but gave 110% every time they walked out to play – both left to have their careers rot playing in the reserves.

Holland was Holland. He appeared to have no idea but somehow racked up a game leading ten contested possessions.

2007 Allen Jakovich Medal Leaderboard

12 - McDonald
11 - Bruce
10 - Rivers (Leader: Marcus Seecamp Medal for Defender of the Year)
8 - Green
8 - Miller
8 - Davey
6 - Bate
5 - Neitz
5 - Yze
4 - Jones
4 - Johnstone
4 - Petterd (Leader: Jeff Hilton Medal for Rookie of the Year)
3 - Godfrey
3 - Sylvia
2 - Moloney
2 - Dunn
2 - Brown
2 - White
1 - Pickett
1 - Jones
1 - Bell

Crowd Watch
The MFC bandwagon empties even further. Hating the venue is no excuse, and Mother’s Day isn’t as much of one either. If you really want to torture your mum bring her along to watch Melbourne play – mine, as an eleven game member, would usually have missed today had it not been for me paying for her ticket. I’m sure the gesture was appreciated but next year it’ll be flowers and/or chocolates, not trauma and outbursts.

Next Week
West Coast. In Perth. Coming off a loss.

After a series of cracking games as a tagger – in which he’s annoyed two of the game’s top players so much they’ve belted him – Godfrey vs Judd should finally put him back in his place. Anyone who has been at the Crack House that is West Coast for as long as he has without being coerced into honking onto fat lines of gear is hardly going to be put off by the scraggiest man on earth, but should Godders find a way to make Mr. Clean give him a backhander he’ll truly go down in cult hero history. Pity it’ll come after Judd has had 72 possessions and kicked 8 goals in a 150 point win.

You know it used to be fashionable to make offhand comments about losing by 150 because it seemed so inconceivable. Thanks to Richmond for going out and ruining everything.

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